Williston’s hospital has gone through a lot of changes — a century of them, as a matter of fact — and now that history is being honored with the unveiling of a unique display.
Community members, hospital staff and city leaders joined together on Tuesday, May 14, in the Sacred Grounds Cafe at the CHI St. Alexius Health Williston Medical Center for the unveiling of the organization’s Mercy Heritage Wall, a nearly 30-foot display showcasing the history of Mercy Hospital and the changes, improvements and milestones it has made since its inception in October 1920.
The Heritage Wall traces the hospital’s roots from the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in 1831 up until 2016, when the hospital became known as CHI St. Alexius Health. The wall has been installed ahead of the hospital’s centennial, which will take place next year.
“This has been quite the labor of love,” said Vice President of Hospital Operations Dan Bjerknes. “We have been in this community for nearly 100 years. So how do you capture 100 years on several panels and explain what it is that we have meant to this community and what this community has meant to us?”
The answer came from Mark Bekkedahl, director of mission integration at the hospital. Bekkedahl, who has been with the hospital since 1991, wanted to share the history of Mercy Hospital to ensure that generations who come could appreciate the journey the medical center has taken.
“When (the hospital) changed the name, that’s when I was concerned that we would start to lose some of our Mercy heritage,” Bekkedahl explained to the Williston Herald. “So this is a way to kind of anchor who we were and honor who we were going into the name change.”
Bekkedahl had previously worked with a designer from Catapult3, a exhibit design company out of Boise, Idaho. He worked with the designer for about four years, he said, writing the dozens of narratives tracing the hospital’s history as they compiled a multitude of photos from the past century. The result is three four foot by eight foot panels, creating a timeline of significant events and achievements interspersed with historic photographs and anecdotes, each one a treasured memory of Mercy’s history.
As noted, the display ends in 2016 with the transition from Mercy Hospital to CHI St. Alexius, but Bekkedahl stated that does not mean there haven’t been significant events in the time since. The display is expandable, he continued, so more panels can be added in later years to continue the narrative. It’s truly important, Bekkedahl continued, for people to understand the humble beginnings that the hospital came from, and to show that the organization has always had a commitment to care in the community.
“Health care has become a business,” he explained. “I think it’s important for people to understand that we first started as a ministry, and we’re still a ministry even though we have to pay attention to business. I don’t want people to lose that. We started very humbly because we felt it was the right thing to do, and most of us working here still feel that way; that we’re a ministry disguised as a business. Our heritage reflects that we have been a ministry all these years, and we continue to want it to be that way.”